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McMorris Rodgers, Brown Hold Town Hall Meetings

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

It was a night of dueling town hall meetings for the two candidates for eastern Washington’s Congressional seat. Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers held an event at the Spokane Convention Center; Lisa Brown had hers in Spokane Valley.

About 100 people came to hear the seven-term congresswoman talk about the region’s strong economy. All 10 counties in the district, she said, saw increases in average wages during the last year. She touted the new military budget, which includes increases in spending and more tankers assigned to Fairchild. She mentioned her work in a number of areas, from saving Snake River Dams to advocating for people with disabilities to rural economies.

Monica Stenzel asked about her plan to reduce the effects of a tariff and trade war on farmers in the district.

“My goal is to get the administration to move to negotiating the bilateral trade agreements. I sat down with Larry Kudlow and the trade ambassador right at the end of July and said we need to get the bilateral trade agreements in place,” McMorris Rodgers said.

In certain cases, she said, her office can help business seek waivers from tariffs. She said she supports the president’s efforts to hold firm in trade talks with China.

One participant asked the congresswoman what she is personally doing to keep the government from pulling apart families that cross the southern border. She said she didn’t support that policy.

“We need families kept together, but we also need a secure border," McMorris Rodgers said to applause.

One other immigration question came from Betty Gilchrist. The local refugee resettlement figures are only a small fraction this year of what they’ve traditionally been. How can you help to maintain Spokane’s legacy of welcoming people refugees?

“I was concerned to hear that the numbers were so low. We had authorized and appropriated in Congress at the 75,000 level and yet, I think we’re at 16,000 or 17,000,” McMorris Rodgers said.

She says she supports efforts to increase the pace of accepting refugees to reach that 75,000 level by the end of the year.

McMorris Rodgers expressed her support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 American election, though she urged him to finish his work soon. She was also asked if she supported a pardon for the now-convicted Paul Manafort. That’s the president’s decision, she said.

In Spokane Valley, Democratic congressional candidate Lisa Brown started by listening to comments and concerns from audience members. Topics included education, healthcare, social security and many others.

Then she addressed the crowd herself. She spent much of the evening addressing education.

“Education is always going to be number one for me,” said the former WSU Spokane chancellor and economics professor at Eastern Washington and Gonzaga universities.

She talked about student loans.

“We figured out how to bail out big financial institutions that were failing. We figured out how to let home owners refinance their mortgages. Shouldn’t we let our students refinance their student loans and get out of those too-high payments?” Brown asked rhetorically.

She touched on health care.

“Over 200,000 people in Washington have preexisting conditions. The administration has filed a lawsuit that would allow the coverage of people with preexisting conditions to be threatened,” Brown said.

She touched on the trade war with China.

“I read in the Spokesman-Review this morning that the congresswoman said we have a little ‘dispute’ going on with China," Brown said to laughter from the crowd. "So, we have a big dispute with China.”

Brown also criticized President Trump over tariffs he has levied, and for the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border.

She ended the evening by asking the crowd to stay engaged in politics.